To address trade abnormalities ABC, FCC, Traders hang heads
In their determination to address the threat trade abnormalities are posing to consumers’ health and safety, especially within the Freetown Municipality, the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change (ABC) Secretariat on Tuesday 24th January, 2012 concluded a one-day Public Education Meeting with officials of the Freetown City Council (FCC) and Leadership of Street Traders at Youyi Building in Freetown. (Cross section of traders)
This meeting which attracted traders from Sani Abacha Street, Fourah Bay Road, Aberdeen Road, Guard Street, Hagan and Martin Streets was described by attendees as a big blessing for inhabitants of Freetown and the country at large. According to them the meeting materialised at a time when the problem of street trading has being politicised and traders view official of Freetown City Council as corrupt and non-performers. Moreover, the meeting they said will solve a range of problems the rift between FCC and Petty Traders have been unduly causing the President Ernest Bai Koroma’s All Peoples Congress ruling government.
Showers of Praises
In his opening remarks the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Information and Communication, Mr. Sheku Tamu heaped praise on the current ABC Secretariat executives. He observed that, unlike the former executives who were fired for alleged corruption that dented the secretariat’s image, their successors are relentlessly attacking poor attitudes and behaviours that are demeaning national progress. The current executives Mr. Tamu said have the resilience in exploiting their potent capabilities to see that President Koroma’s vision of an Agenda for Change come to fruition. In a retrospect Mr. Tamu spoke on how their sensitisation tour last year help to mould negative attitudes of students, police officers, soldiers, traders, prison officers, fire fighters and school authorities among others.
He underscored the importance of petty traders in the socioeconomic uplifting of the country albei the certain problems their activities are causing.
Mr. Tamu bemoaned how street trading, adulteration of consumable, falsification of standard measurements and overpricing of goods have not only swindled consumers of their hard earned disposable income, but affects their health and road safety as well.
This he stressed does not collaborate with centenary admiration foreigners hold for Sierra Leoneans because of their inborn hospitality, religious tolerance and hardworking nature.
He admonished the Freetown City Council to be transparent, accountable and result oriented, since in contemporary democracy much is relied upon Local Government.
The Chairman, Mr. Tamu in conclusion urged participants to be objective in their contributions so that a workable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) could be drafted at session’s ending.
All Eyes on Freetown
While declaring the purpose and intent of the meetings, the Executive Director of ABC Secretariat, Dr. Ivan Ajibola Thomas mentioned that among other City Councils in the country, all eyes are on FCC because of its unsatisfactory performance. He attributed this to the poor attitudes and behaviours of the FCC employees and the city’s inhabitants most of whom he said fail to pay dues, fines, charges, and taxes.
He said it is against this backdrop that Freetown is experiencing the worst form of trade associated problems.
Dr. Thomas divulged that this existing problem can only be addressed through dialogue among the actors. And this he disclosed constitutes the purpose and intent the ABC Secretariat have for organising the Public Education Meeting.
Speaker after speaker from the Leadership of Petty Traders present divulged that, the Freetown City Council have not been giving them satisfactory service for collected dues, rates, fines and taxes. According to them the market dues are collected by youths around the area and no receipts are issued.
The Chairlady of Salad Grounds Market along Garrison Street, Mrs. Salamatu Sesay complained that although they have been honouring their obligations, FCC has failed to provide necessary sanitary conditions, market facilities and security.
On her part Madam Isatu Kamara of Martin Street Market revealed although they as petty traders tried to address the spate of street trading through ‘Operation Push Back’, FCC undermined their effort by allowing street traders to molest and humiliate them.
Mr. John Sesay informed that, as expected the FCC has not over the years conformed to the requirements of a true local governance actor. He complained that in the mist of rampant unaccountability FCC cannot even boast of a database of traders within the Freetown Municipality that could be used for proper planning, control and execution of duties.
FCC Admits, Apologise & Promises
Responding to traders’ complaints the Acting Chief Administrator of FCC, Mr John A. Conteh attested that indeed the traders have been robbed their rights and attributed plenty accidents and spread of contagious diseases within the city to street trading. According to him although there are unused markets structures most lack the required facilities to attract traders from streets.
He registered his remorse for these appalling situations and informed that it is as a result of this inefficiency some former FCC bosses have been dragged to court.
Mr. Conteh informed that, although he and others have just been assigned to manage the FCC’s affairs, they will do everything possible to ensure that traders and other inhabitants within the Freetown Municipality get value for monies they will be paying.
In his contribution the newly appointed FCC Resident Technical Facilitator, Sylvester Leslie Thomas assured that a database for traders will soon be formulated.
Root of Problems and Feasible Solutions
Making her statement the National Coordinator and Second-in-Command of ABC, Madam Nanette Thomas reiterated that, problems posed by uncontrolled trade emanates from abominable attitudes and behaviours.
These she noted are not only manifested by the FCC and Petty traders, but importers, wholesalers, custom officers, policy formulators and law enforcers.
Madam Thomas maintained that, these inhuman trade ethics are hampering President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Agenda for Change which aims at maximizing the livelihood of Sierra Leoneans.
The National Coordinator of ABC Secretariat advanced that, until the established laws for competitive trade are applied petty traders will remain at the mercy of extortive importers.
Madam Thomas maintained that to curb street trading FCC should build and maintain existing markets within Freetown. She called for more control measures within the collection and disbursement of dues, fines, rates, taxes and charges. She informed participants that she worked for FCC and during those days market keepers and market sweepers puts on uniform to work which always identify their position and place of work. She appealed that the FCC ensures that the workers start wearing uniforms to help solve some of these problem. She also informed the participants that she is very saddened that a whole institution like the FCC can allow youths to handle the finances of such a noble institution.
She concluded by calling on petty traders, especially women whom she described as the breadbaskets of most families to endeavour to manage their finances, relationships, environments, spiritualities and health well since this will help them in putting up positive manners.
In another development, Madam Thomas warned petty traders to desist from child labour which she informed does not only contravenes FCC Bye- Laws, but is keeping most potential future- leaders from acquiring education.
She also encouraged traders to spare their limited times from trading and registered in droves for the forth coming elections. According to her it is only by registering traders will be empowered to elect performance orientated Councillors and the Mayor that will return Freetown City to its once enviable status.
By Momoja Lappia
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